Ramsar's Secretary General visits Japan, May 2004
Japanese lawmakers express strong support for the Convention
In late May 2004, the Secretary General, Dr Peter Bridgewater, visited Japan for a few days and participated in discussions with parliamentarians and the Ministry of the Environment about recent progress in implementing the Convention and the issues up for consideration in the forthcoming 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) in 2005.
On 25 May 2004, Peter met with the "Japanese Lawmakers' League for Increasing Ramsar Sites", a body of some 35 members of the Diet (or Parliament) that was inaugurated in April 2003. The topics covered ranged from the number of Ramsar Sites desirable versus an integrated approach to wetlands for the country, drawing upon the national list of over 500 sites identified by the Ministry of the Environment; special issues in Hokkaido and Okinawa; the role of rice fields as key wetland systems; cultural issues as important features of wetland systems; and the possibilities and administrative issues surrounding COP9. The meeting was very warm and friendly, and the Lawmakers' League is an excellent example of how the Parties' legislative bodies, as well as the national executives, can take an active and organized part in achieving the Convention's objectives in their countries.
Present were Shimizu Kayoko, President of the League; Kato Shuichi, Vice-Minister of Environment; Takeyama Yuriko and Iwasa Emi, Vice-Presidents of the League; Tani Hiroyuki, League Secretary General; Aichi Jiro, Inami Tetsuo, Kaneda Seiichi, Hatta Hiroko, Ohkawara, Ohno Matsushige (see photo below).
On the 26th, Peter visited Isao Matsumiya, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in the company of Yoshihisa Endo, Deputy Director-General for Arms Control and Scientific Affairs; Koichi Ito, Director, Global Environment Division, and Tomoyuki Oshino, official of the Global Environment Division (and participant at Ramsar's 30th Standing Committee meeting last January). The meeting was exceptionally cordial, and the Parliamentary Secretary reiterated Japan's strong support for the Convention, from the possible nomination of new sites to suggestions for ensuring that the Convention will be properly funded as well as well-managed. The Secretary General took the opportunity to explain the critical issues for COP9 and his intention to present proposals for better managing the COP process and recasting the Convention's budget formula in order to avoid the problems of the current budget.
Japan's Minister of the Environment, Koike Yuriko, received the Secretary General on 27 May 2004 in the office of the minister, in the company of Nobuhiko Kishimoto and Kanie Shiho of the Wildlife Division in the Nature Conservation Bureau, where she reiterated her support for the Convention and expressed the hope that Japan would add several new and important sites before the next meeting of the COP. She also underlined Japan's support for a successful COP and stressed the need for ensuring that the environment conventions are working closely together, especially Ramsar and the UNFCCC.
Koike Yuriko, Minister of the Environment, and Peter Bridgewater, Ramsar Secretary General
The Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Isao Matsumiya, and Peter Bridgewater
The Japanese Lawmakers' League for Increasing Ramsar Sites. Left to right (standing) Aichi Jiro; Takeyama Yuriko (Vice President of the League); Tani Hiroyuki (Secretary General of the League). Seated: Shimizu ayoko (President of the League); Peter Bridgewater; Iwasa Emi (Vice President of the League)